Amex Gold is Inconsistent with their 4x Restaurants Category

Update 2/6/19: American Express front line representatives are now stating they are going through the statements of those with inquiries regarding this issue and manually adding those merchants so they code correctly. That seems unnecessary considering most of the time it correctly shows up as a restaurant but it’s still not earning 4x. Still it’s good to see they are at least attempting to fix the issues for some people.

Below is a guest post from my friend Dawnzerly from, a website dedicated to saving money on travel using home exchange and other sharing economy networks.

One of the big attractions to the new Amex Gold card is the ability to earn 4X Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar on restaurant spend, one of the best earning rates on restaurant spend available. Unfortunately, a lot of people are finding themselves only earning the generic 1X points, even when using the card at full-fledged restaurants. The reasons are unclear, and getting the problem corrected can be time consuming and frustrating.

My Experiences

On my November statement there were 12 charges at restaurants, of which 5 did not earn the 4X multiplier. It’s easy to check if you earned the bonus: in your online Amex account, select the Statements & Activity tab and choose any closed statement; the charges that get the bonus show a little blue diamond with 4X in it next to the charge.

I called Amex to ask for help with this. Over the course of several phone calls and many transfers to new people/departments I learned a few things. First, many Amex employees don’t know about this problem. Second, they need to open a case for the MR team to investigate, and when they do this you should hear back within the week (if you don’t hear back, no case was actually opened). Third, once investigation is complete, you won’t necessarily win.

From the charges I’ve followed up on, one place was determined not to be a restaurant at all. They gave me courtesy points for that place, but they won’t pay 4X on it in the future. The other restaurants they investigated on my bill were said to have been fixed in the Amex system; those will hopefully code properly in the future.

Readers note in the comments that the issue also affects the signup bonus offer to get 20% back at restaurants – it’ll only work on what they consider restaurants. And people have had similar issues in the past with other restaurant bonuses from Amex as well. Other banks like Chase use a broader catch-all category which includes everything, but Amex is more limiting, and results in many legitimate restaurant purchases being disqualified by their system.

What Works and What Does Not

This earnings issue affects all kinds of dining establishments. Of my nine failed restaurants from my November and December statements: three were ordinary restaurants (sit down, menus, etc.); one was a cafe (coffee and pastries only); four were breweries with minimal food on offer; one was a brewery with full sit-down restaurant on premises (yes, I go to a lot of breweries!). You might be thinking that a good rule of thumb is that breweries don’t work, but there were several breweries that did code for me at 4X, so there’s no consistent pattern there.

Digging into the details a bit more, Amex displays the Category of purchase at two levels in your online statement. For instance, many of my restaurants show as: Restaurant – Restaurant. Others show as Restaurant – Bar & Cafe. Two, oddly, show as Merchandise & Supplies – Groceries (both of these are bars at breweries).

Even some of those which showed Restaurant – Restaurant did not always get the bonus points. The ones in the Bar & Cafe subgroup more often did not get 4X, yet sometimes they did earn 4X automatically. The ones coded as Merchandise & Supplies never earned 4X (and they did not code at 4X for groceries either, despite showing the exact same way as the grocery category).

The category you see in your Amex login is not the category Amex uses to award bonus points. I was told by several different Amex reps that the restaurants missing the 4X bonus have to be manually recoded to count as restaurants. This is consistent with what other folks have been told. This means that when I call to initiate an investigation they first have to decide that my charge was really at a restaurant, then they have to put in a request to recode it.

So if you have a specific restaurant which isn’t coding properly at 4X, you can get them to update their system so that it should automatically earn 4X in the future. Useful to know.

Some people have speculated that restaurants using Square or Toast readers for payments may be the problem. That’s definitely possible – this would be the case with many of the indy bars and restaurants I frequent. You can see this online: Toast transactions will show up on your Amex statement as “TST*” preceding the restaurant name.

And Square shows under the detail of the transaction under “Additional information.” If the payment processor is the problem, you could ask about payment systems before providing your credit card to pay.


This may, however, be a case where correlation is not causation. Of my 9 charges that didn’t earn 4X, two were with Toast, 4 were with Square, and 3 were neither of these. Smaller indy establishments are more likely to use these payment processors, and they are more likely to not code as 4X by Amex. That doesn’t necessarily mean the payment processing system is causing the failure to code as a restaurant.

Final Thoughts

Overall, my experience suggests that cafes, bars, and breweries are a high risk for not automatically counting. Restaurants have a better chance. You can also verify with each restaurant to ensure they aren’t using Square or Toast. Doing so can greatly increase your odds of getting 4X.

I feel reasonably safe using my Amex Gold at chain restaurants and at indy restaurants that have been around for a long time. I won’t use it at anything remotely considered a bar, even if they have a huge restaurant (i.e. a brewery and restaurant), nor will I use it at any cafes. The Citi Prestige will probably be my go-to backup, but first I need data points on whether it codes cafes and bars as restaurants.

Even with this cautious use of my Amex Gold I’m not entirely safe for getting the 4X points on all restaurants. I may still call in to dispute these missing rewards, but at some point it’s a bad use of my time and I will just give up on the MR bonus for restaurants.

Over the course of disputing my restaurant bonus on two statements, including follow up calls, I probably put in 3 hours on the phone. Much of that time was quite frustrating, with reps who had no idea what was going on and who were trying to make up rules about why I shouldn’t get the bonus points. In the end, I was awarded courtesy points for all that I was missing and more. So I came out ahead (actually quite a lot ahead due to the generosity of the last manager I spoke to), but I’ve stopped using my Amex Gold at a lot of places.

Bottom line: check your statements and dispute any missing 4X on restaurants. The more people who complain about this, the more likely they are to try to find a broader solution to the coding problem.

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Error still persisting,

Category – Restuarant: Bar and Cafe

Posted as 1x points, and not 4x points


I just chatted with Amex and listed all the missed charges over the past six months. Had to go through the process on the one listed restaurant, but any of the ones with “Cafe” listed it was pretty much implied that it was my fault that I thought a Cafe was a restaurant, even after I provided a link to the dictionary definition that a cafe IS a restaurant, and they would not file a claim for those.


2/6: contacted Amex through chat and provided a list of restaurant purchases that did not earn 4x dating back to Oct. 2018 (all transactions through Square)
2/20: points adjustment appears in my MR activity page

Qi Chu
Qi Chu

Not only restaurant, grocery category is also inconsistent. Even the same vendor (Shipt got 4x on Feb 6 but not on Feb 9) I cannot figure out what Amex is doing.


Important note: they’re also TOTALLY inconsistent with their supermarket categories as well. My local health food store has the same merchant category as a mid-sized chain that DOES get the 3% or 4x or whatever the card offers perfectly fine. Although to note, there is a note that says “groceries/sundries” on the health food store transactions for whatever reason, and it never gets nor got marked; only 1% or the base points.

I contacted them by chat, dealt with a clueless rep so I asked for a supervisor. The supervisor seemed to understand and said he would launch an “internal investigation” and that I would it should be concluded within 6 weeks (ouch). He did take the numbers of the dozen or so transactions I made within 3 months (before discovering the fluke). I asked to get updated, and he said these [internal] investigations “are internal”, but, that I would [presumably] just see the new credits e-mailed to me. Well, nothing ever happened in 10+ weeks. I will NEVER use AmEx for categories again.

Unbelievably and offensively unreliable and messed up. I’ve never had a single issue with Visa, MC or Discover with merchant coding. Never a single issue, not one. No reason when the merchant category on AmEx transactions is the correct one they should still play games.

TL;DR: I ended up closing by BCE because I have older cards, and other cards with AmEx (Cash Mag + ED). So, BCE/BCP + Gold = AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE. Going by categories with AmEx = Good luck!


This is so friggin dumb… I have the SimplyCash Plus and I set my 3% category to restaurants.

Here’s two restaurants that are geographically very close (within 2 miles of each other) that are two days between each other. Both places use Square terminals for payment.

3% U.S. Restaurants:

1% On Restaurant Purchases:

Get your head out of your ass, AMEX.


I’ve had several regular restaurants and a brewery not code as 4x, but a big issue was where I play beach volleyball (which is a restaurant and bar). I pay our league fees there ($400 twice now) and it only coded as 1x. They did an investigation and eventually credited the 4x points. In this case it was a pretty substantial amount – 2,400 points for those two charges (plus the other restaurants they credited)! Ironically, they show up as “restaurants” of some sort in the line item on my statement.

So, thanks for posting this Doc!


I use the AG as my exclusive restaurant card, especially since all purchases at our corporate cafeteria and even the vending machines code as “restaurant” and I receive 4 points. During the first 4 pts/$1 month, I had seven restaurants where I did not receive the bonus “restaurant” points. Called an Amex CSR and within two weeks the points were in my account. Now, over the past two months, I have continued to find that approx. three restaurants a month have not been awarded the bonus. It takes about 12 minutes a month on the phone to resolve this issue. The restaurants that I have reported are no longer an issue the following month with the exception of one. I have had to report it three months in a row.


I haven’t yet had the Gold, but as far as Amex categories go, I’ve found them highly reliable in getting 3% cashback on the Amex BCE and 6% on the BCP at a variety of grocery stores from local independent, discount grocery, Trader Joes, Smart & Final.

As far as restaurants, the following have been very reliable:

Uber Visa – everything that coded as an eating place over more than 1 year received 4% (wide variety, incl expensive rest, casual, fast food, ice cream, Disneyland food, sports arena food, and in different areas & states); only bakery & candy did not, but those are not eligible; as expected, a couple where the merchant was not coded properly as an eating place didn’t work (like where it was “general merchandise” but it was an in-airport restaurant).

Wells Fargo Propel Amex no-fee – everything coded properly over many months for 3%, including restaurants of all types, fast food, DoorDash, UberEats

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning

Postmates didn’t code as 4X but Caviar and seamless does. I called and complained as this is an inconsistent policy. They wouldn’t credit me the point but said they’d give me 1K as a courtesy. Still waiting for that to post.